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South Australia to lift ban on GM crops

GM crops are coming to South Australia. Photo: JKL

The South Australian government is seeking to lift the state’s long-standing ban on genetically modified (GM) crops beginning next year.

According to proposed changes to an existing moratorium, mainland farmers would be given the freedom to choose to plant GM crops for the first time since 2003.

BAN TO BE LIFTED

A long-standing moratorium on genetically modified crops in South Australia is to be lifted.

State government officials have introduced new draft regulations that will allow GM food crops to be grown on the SA mainland from as early as next season across the state.

Currently, the Genetically Modified Crops Management Act 2004 and related regulations prohibit the cultivation of genetically modified food crops in the whole of South Australia.

The GM crop moratorium was introduced in 2003 and renewed three times — 2008, 2014 and 2017 — with the ban attempted to be overturned still legislated to remain in place until 2025.

The government announced that it had decided to lift the moratorium following recommendations from the independent review undertaken by Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson.

The review evaluated the negative costs of the GM moratorium to the economy and agricultural industries, in an attempt to inform policy decisions regarding GM food crops in South Australia.

As a result, new draft regulations (PDF) have been introduced that include variations allowing the changes to come into operation on 1 December 2019.

The changes to the GM Act will give South Australian producers on the mainland the opportunity to choose to grow GM food crops as part of their farming practice.

Ministers also flagged the economy and climate change as a reason for lifting the ban, saying farmers needed the capacity to take advantage of new GM varieties as they become available to the market.

A required statutory six-week consultation period has begun, and the government said it would introduce regulations to lift the ban after the consultation period had ended.

‘A BETRAYAL OF SA’

Many critics of the proposals have said the Select Committee’s inquiry into the GM moratorium should be allowed to run its course and report before any changes are made to the moratorium.

Bob Phelps, Director of lobby group Gene Ethics Australia, said the plan to end the GM ban by amending regulations would betray the parliament and the people of South Australia:

“The SA government’s plan to end the GM ban by amending regulations would betray the parliament and the people of the state. 

The present Select Committee Inquiry into SA GM-free should be allowed to run its course and report to the parliament before any proposed changes are made to the moratorium. 

We call on the parliament to stand by its moratorium on Roundup tolerant GM canola.”

Bob continued to say the winners from lifting the GM-free ban would be foreign seed and agrochemical companies and the losers South Australia’s farmers and shoppers:

“The state government should stay GM-free and get behind farmers and food businesses to earn substantial GM-free premiums in Australian and overseas markets.

We encourage all South Australians to say “NO!” to GM canola during the Minister’s consultation, and back the parliament’s decision to stay GM-free until 2025.”

In criticism of the new proposals, the group drew comparisons to recent decisions by the Tasmanian government to extend GM restrictions for another decade — until 2029 across the state.

South Australia’s peak lobby groups for grain and livestock — Primary Producers SA, Grain Producers SA (GPSA) and Livestock SA — have all supported the lifting of the moratorium.

The moves represent increased loosening of regulations and perceptions relating to genetically modified products and crops in Australia over the last two decades.

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GMO IN AUSTRALIA

Three main types of genetically modified crops are grown in Australia — cotton, canola and safflower — with GM carnations also approved for growing or importing:

  • GM cotton is grown commercially in several inland regions of New South Wales, as well as central and southern Queensland.
  • Canola is grown across Australia for its seed, which is crushed for the oil used in margarine, cooking oils, salad oils and edible oil blends.
  • Safflower is a minor crop grown in Australia for the edible and industrial oil markets. Commercial safflower production occurs mainly in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. 

Two of these cottons are herbicide-tolerant to help the control of weeds, and the other has an inbuilt resistance to a pest, reducing the need for insecticides. 

Other crops are undergoing field trials by institutions in a number of locations across the country:

The map shows sites of licences granted by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator for genetically modified organism trials. Source: OGTR

GM crops being developed and trialled around the country (but not yet commercially available) include sugarcane, safflower, banana, wheat, barley and white clover.

The dominance of the GM seed and agrichemicals market by a handful of chemical companies, including Dow Chemical, Du Pont, Monsanto, Bayer, ChemChina and Syngenta, puts farmers in financially vulnerable situations.

Where once farmers had choice and saved their own seeds for crop regeneration, Monsanto has them sign a user agreement that prevents them from saving and replanting the seeds, forcing them to reinvest each season. 

There are approximately 80 different types of GM crops grown worldwide, with most of these included as modified canola, soybean, maize and cotton. 

Other GM commercially released crops include papaya, potato, squash and tomato. All approved GM crops are listed in the GMO Record.

In South Australia, legislation states GM crops require a formal consultation period, with written submissions to be accepted and public meetings held in Adelaide and Kangaroo Island.

GM crops will continue to be banned on Kangaroo Island, due to its established Japanese market for non-GM canola oil, but this is expected to change in the coming years.


SUBMISSIONS TO THE CONSULTATION

The Committee invites written submissions addressing any or all aspects of the bill(s) to:

GM Secretariat Support
Primary Industries and Regions SA – PIRSA
Government of South Australia | GPO Box 1671 Adelaide SA 5001
Email: PIRSA.GMReview@sa.gov.au

Following statutory consultation, amendments to the regulations will be recommended to the Governor of South Australia, taking into account feedback received. 

It is proposed changes to the regulations will be operational on 1 December 2019 to enable producers to make decisions about their crops in 2020.

Written submissions are welcome to be received by 5pm on 30 September 2019. Written submissions need to include your full name, regions and state. 


RELATED CONTENT

South Australia seeks to lift ban on mainland GM crops, Kangaroo Island to remain GM-free | ABC News

Genetically Modified Food Crops Moratorium in South Australia | Primary Industries of Regions SA

INDEPENDENT GM REVIEW | Primary Industries of Regions SA

Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designation of Area) Variation Regulations 2019 | | Primary Industries of Regions SA



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